Tuesday, March 29, 2011
lent is in trouble
Let's face it. Lent is in trouble.
Everyone has their favorite holiday seasons. For some it's Advent and Christmas. For others it's the Fourth of July and summertime. But very few of us would pick Lent, a season that seems to most of us as grim as the weather that usually surrounds it.
Think about it: crossing off days on the calendar until Ash Wednesday, or thinking "I've got to get my Lenten shopping done", or little kids going to bed asking their parents, "How much longer 'till Lent is here?" It just doesn't happen.
The trouble with Lent seems pretty clear.
It's a strange time period that centers on things we don't value and encourages attitudes we don't share. No wonder each year fewer and fewer churches observe this age-old tradition -- it's too old-fashioned, too "Roman," too medieval for many contemporary Christians to handle.
So it seems Lent is in trouble. Even among those of us who honor the season, rarely is there the same kind of enthusiasm or expectancy which greets Advent. Maybe it's that there are no presents at the end, and no fun and games along the way. Or maybe it's that Lent asks us to give up things. Haven't we had to sacrifice enough already, to save for retirement, to put that new roof on the house? Why should we give up anything more for Lent?
Maybe it's the themes of Lent that trouble us. Penitence. Sacrifice. Contemplation.
These are the words and themes of Lent. So why Lent? I mean, who really needs it?
Well, maybe I do. Maybe I need a time to re-focus, to get my mind off of everything else, and center myself in not only the meaning of life, but Meaning and Life itself.
Maybe I need a time (is 40 days really enough?) to help clear my head of all the distractions and re-orient myself toward my Maker and Redeemer.
Maybe I need the opportunity to clear my eyes of the glaze of indifference and apathy, so I can fasten my eyes on the revelation of the God who loves me enough to take the form of a man hanging on a tree.
And maybe Lent really isn't mine to do with whatever I please, to insist upon or discard at will. Maybe Lent isn't any of ours to scoff at or observe. Maybe Lent is God's gift to people starved for meaning, purpose, courage, and life.
If it is, then maybe we'll also begin to recall that we too, are not ours at all, but God's -
God's own possession and treasure.
Yes, I need Lent. I need a time to be quiet and still, to hear again what was promised me at Baptism: "I love you! I am with you! You are mine!"
I need Lent, finally, to remember who I am -- God's heir and co-heir with Christ - so that, when Easter comes, I can rejoice and celebrate with all the joy, all the revelry, all the anticipation, of a true heir to the throne.
I need Lent. And I suspect that you do, too. You see, if Lent is in trouble, it's only because we're all in trouble, so busy trying to make or keep or save our lives that we fail to notice that God has already saved us and has already freed us to live with each other and for each other. And so we have Lent, a gift of the church, the season during which God prepares us to behold God's own great sacrifice for us, with the hope and prayer that, come Good Friday and Easter, we may be immersed once again into God's mercy, and perceive more fully God's great love for us and all the world, so we may find the peace and hope and freedom that we so often lack.
(from david lose - "working preacher")